Two tough, determined and especially motivated light-heavyweights gave us a terrific action fight last night in Atlantic City. Joe Smith Jr, best known for being the man who ended the long and ultra-distinguished career of all-time great Bernard Hopkins, defeated Hopkins’ protege Jesse Hart over ten all-action rounds.
Scoring a knockdown, busting Hart up and looking to almost everyone (almost everyone!) like a clear winner, Smith Jr. instead had to make do with a split decision win – courtesy of some ringside scoring by a judge who has been heavily criticized, by promoter Bob Arum especially, for somehow scoring the fight in favor of Hart. Smith Jr. won, with one judge having it a wide 98-91 and another having it a little closer for him at 97-92, but astonishingly, judge James Kinney had it 95-94 for Hart.
Arum was livid at this piece of officiating:
“That judge should be banned from scoring a fight – and I promote Hart,” Arum said as quoted by ESPN.com. “How can you ever score that fight for Jesse Hart? It was a terrific fight, good for boxing, good action fight, and then you have a damn judge who screws it up.”
Arum is right of course, but seeing how this is boxing and we have seen this kind of crazy, disgraceful scoring before and nothing much has ever been done about it, don’t expect anything to happen here. Still, at least the right man won.
Smith Jr, of Long Island was simply the better man on the night, a night in which Philly’s Hart so badly wanted to beat up on Smith Jr. so as to avenge the Hopkins loss. A bad hand was mentioned post-fight by Hart (“No excuses, but…..) but nothing can be taken away from Smith Jr’s win, arguably the second biggest of his pro career.
“I got two Philly guys now and it feels great,” a victorious Smith Jr. said. “It would have been nice to get [Hart by KO] the same way but you can’t always do that.”
Smith Jr. dropped Hart in the 7th and looked to be on his way to ending the fight. Credit goes to Hart for showing heart and making it to the final bell. Hart had some success of his own, marking up Smith Jr. underneath the eye, but this was a relatively easy fight to score. At least it should have been.
Smith Jr. now 25-3(20) aims to fight the winner of the upcoming fight between Eleider Alvarez and Michael Seals, while he also very much wants a rematch with 175 pound champ Dmitry Bivol. For Hart, who falls to 26-3(21), it is back to the drawing board.